The Swiss food company known as Nestlé is now seeking a patent on Nigella sativa, commonly known as fennel flower, black seed or black cumin. This singular herb has been known to treat everything from fevers to skin rashes. It has been used for centuries in impoverished countries throughout Asia and the Middle East as a reliable and inexpensive herbal medicine. Nestlé wants to patent this herb to prevent food allergies.
Nestlé wouldn’t be the first company to try to patent what is freely offered by Mother Nature, nor will it be the last. Pharmaceutical companies do it all the time, and it is arguably why we don’t have wide-spread knowledge of our own medicinal birthright in the form of plants and herbs. If a corporation can’t patent something and sell it back to us, they have no interest in ‘healing’ people with it.
Companies like Nestlé would also happily patent turmeric or basmati, black cohosh and other medicinal herbs in the form of plant extracts, the same way that Monsanto, Dow and Bayer would like to patent seeds. If we are completely reliant on these companies for our food and medicine, then they will arguably rule us completely.
Similar to how Nestlé believes that water is not a human right and should be privatized, the company’s scientists can claim they ‘discovered’ fennel flower and have any right to claim ownership of it; it is quite ridiculous. Nestlé has patents pending in the European patent offices as well as Japan, China and the US (through Nestlé subsidiary companies) that have been awaiting approval since 2009. The patent claim is based on a study published in PLOS dated July 2012, titled “Nigella Sativa seed extract alleviates symptoms of allergic diarrhea in mice involving opioid receptors“. The authors are Swiss. While the study points out the efficacy of treating food allergies with black caraway seed extracts, it doesn’t admit that the seeds have been used for thousands of years in multiple culinary and medicinal heritages.
Related Read: Black Cumin Oil Benefits
Apparently, the thymoquinone extract (active ingredient in fennel flower or black cumin) can also be gained from other plants, like Eupatorium ayapana (now Ayapana triplinervis, or water hemp, an American plant from the daisy family), Satureja montana (winter savory, a European plant from the mints family), or the Thymus genus (plants from the mints family, found in Europe, North Africa and Asia). Does Nestlé plan to patent these plant extracts as well?
It seems odd that pharmaceutical and food companies are constantly trying to debunk natural treatments, all the while trying to patent them. With natural treatment patents and human gene patenting having been available to companies, we can see quite literally, that Big Pharma and bloated corporations are trying to ‘own’ us flat out.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.